Iran hold Nigeria to dour draw


Iran and Nigeria played out the first draw of the 2014 World Cup as their Group F opener ended goalless.

Nigeria dominated possession but created few chances against a disciplined side managed by ex-Manchester United coach Carlos Queiroz.

The Super Eagles’ best opportunities came in the first half, when Ogenyi Onazi fired a yard wide before Ahmed Musa went close with a free-kick.

Iran’s Reza Ghoochannejad forced a great save from Vincent Enyeama.

The share of the points leaves both teams well placed in the group after Argentina defeated Bosnia-Hercegovina.

African champions Nigeria were fancied to go through with the South American giants, but the pressure is now on them to beat the section’s only European side, who impressed in their first ever World Cup match on Sunday.

Iran, on the other hand, will be buoyed by this result and will be looking to cause one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history on Saturday against Argentina.

They performed diligently, with Queiroz getting the best out of a group of players who stuck rigidly to the tactics employed.

Their conservative approach, with midfielders Javad Nekounam and Andranik Timotian as an extra line of defence for the backline, frustrated Nigeria.

Stephen Keshi’s side were limited to only a couple of chances despite having the lion’s share of possession. The first fell to Lazio forward Onazi, who slammed his shot a foot wide before Musa almost caught out goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi with his quick thinking from a free-kick.

Ironically, Iran had the best chance to score despite their only effort on goal coming when Charlton’s Ghoochannejad, who spent much of his career to date playing in the Dutch and Belgian leagues, forced a excellent reaction save from Enyeama, playing in his third World Cup.

Keshi – the mastermind behind Nigeria’s unexpected Cup of Nations win last year – tinkered with his attack after the break by bringing on former Newcastle stalwart Shola Ameobi and fellow forward Peter Odemwingie of Stoke.

The tactical swaps almost paid dividends in the 71st minute, when Ameobi headed wide from eight yards, but he had conceded a foul in the process.

The former Magpie also had a chance in the closing minutes, but on this occasion his goalbound header was easily cleared by Mehrdad Pooladi.

That draw now means Nigeria have not won a World Cup match in nine attempts – the longest streak in the competition. They might need to rethink their strategy against Bosnia-Hercegovina if they do not want that run to continue.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz:

”¬†We played against a great team and it was necessary to play a realistic game. We fought for every ball, every space and played 90 minutes with one thing in our mind. My players need to be congratulated.

“Now it’s Argentina and the most important thing is that everything is open to us.”

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi:

“Respect to Iran, they had their game plan to sit back and defend and they did well.

“Win or lose I’m criticized. A draw now, I’ll be criticized. It’s part of the game. In my country, it’s win at all costs and sometimes it doesn’t go that way.”

Nigeria forward Peter Odemwingie talking to BBC World Service:

“We expected three points from this game but everybody knows the most important game is between ourselves and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

“Next game I think will be easier and I think that will be the decider of where we will be at this World Cup.”